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Cody Latimer is no longer nervous around Peyton Manning and it shows on the football field

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ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Cody Latimer had to get past the fear and doubt that held him back his rookie season.

That process started with a coveted invitation to Peyton Manning's annual passing camp at Duke, where hundreds of routes and countless catches began chasing away the butterflies, slowing his heartbeat and quelling his concerns.

"Last year I was down. I was always nervous about getting in the huddle with Peyton and not wanting to mess up," Latimer said. "This year, it's like, 'Just go out there and play fast. If you mess up, you mess up.'"

That hasn't happened very much.

Emboldened by his experience at Duke, Latimer, a second-round pick in 2014 out of Indiana, is intent on showing last year's terrific draft class of receivers is even better than anyone thought.

Latimer took his newfound bravado into the weight room, producing a chiseled torso. He took it into the classroom, absorbing the offense like a college student retaking a course for a better grade. He took it into the locker room, gaining the trust and respect of his teammates, particularly Emmanuel Sanders, who has been effusive in his praise of Latimer.

And he took it onto the football field, where he capitalized on the absence of Demaryius Thomas in a contract stalemate during the offseason program to get thousands of snaps with the starters.

The only downside: fatigue, but even that's fixable.

"That kid's run more than anybody on this football team," coach Gary Kubiak said Sunday. "He runs a lot, so he's worn down. When he freshens up, you can watch him. When he's fresh in practice things are good, things are sharp. He's a vastly improved player from OTAs to now and that's what we need."

Latimer acknowledges he didn't handle himself well last year, when he caught more flack than passes. He had just two receptions for 23 yards and no TDs in eight games. Looking back, Latimer said he just didn't prepare properly for the pros and tried too hard to please Manning.

He would regularly wow everyone as a member of the scout team, just like he had in training camp, when he routinely schooled fellow rookie Bradley Roby only to watch the first-rounder quickly make his mark in the regular season while he languished on the sideline.

Latimer just couldn't translate that play into games because he couldn't always decipher Manning's many changes in the play call at the line.

So, the only times he'd flash his unusual mix of speed, strength and superb hands came three hours before kickoffs, when he'd head out with a backup QB to work on his game.

"I feel like I'm way more prepared this year," Latimer said.

He doesn't fret that there's not enough footballs to go around in Kubiak's run-heavy, two-tight end offense, either.

"No, it doesn't worry me," Latimer said. "Everybody's going to go out there and make plays. My name will get called and when it gets called, I'm prepared this year."

NOTES: Thomas was banged up Sunday when he ran into the goal post while making a great play in the end zone. Kubiak said Thomas was OK. ... ILB Brandon Marshall (sore foot) came out of practice early and TE/FB Joe Don Duncan left early with a neck injury. ... About 20 players sat out practice, including Manning. One player who insists he needs no rest is TE Virgil Green. "I have a lot of stamina," he said. "I don't know why, but I have it and I'm happy about it."


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